The two prosecutors alleged to have engaged in “reckless professional misconduct” in the botched prosecution of the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) are appealing the disciplinary action against them, according to the Blog of Legal Times.
James Goeke and Joseph Bottini asked the U.S. Merit System Protection Board to review their lengthy dispute with the Justice Department.
The Justice Department cited the duo for “reckless misconduct” after they allegedly failed to hand over exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys. The Office of Professional Responsibility, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, released a lengthy report on the failed prosecution and laid the blame largely on then-Alaskan Assistant U.S. Attorneys Goeke and Bottini.
Career Justice Department attorney Terrence Berg – who reviewed the matter as part of the department’s Professional Misconduct Review Unit, which recommends discipline for prosecutors found to have committed misconduct – disagreed with OPR’s evaluation. He argued in a memo (read the whole document here) that the entire prosecutorial team–including the “front office” of Criminal Division political appointees — contributed to the failures. Berg said he “disagreed substantively” with OPR’s finding.
Former Public Integrity Section Chief William Welch, his deputy Brenda Morris, and trial attorneys Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan–were not found to have committed misconduct.
But Professional Misconduct Review Unit Chief Kevin Ohlson, a former long-time top aide to Attorney General Eric Holder, overruled Berg and recommended Bottini and Goeke for 40 and 15 day suspensions, respectively.
The Senate Judiciary Committee later held a hearing in which Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) questioned the Justice Department’s disciplinary “double standard.”
“[The OPR report] raises new questions about the longstanding problem of a double standard between discipline applied to line agents and attorneys compared to managers and supervisors at the department,” Grassley said. ”It’s easy to see with the OPR report in the Stevens case how this perception continues.”